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Clerical error nearly forces council to re-approve motions related to parks and rec

A clerical error at city hall could have forced city council to re-approve recommendations from the parks and recreation advisory committee because it appeared that the committee lacked quorum during a recent meeting.
city hall stock
Moose Jaw City Hall.

A clerical error at city hall could have forced city council to re-approve recommendations from the parks and recreation advisory committee because it appeared that the committee lacked quorum during a recent meeting.

The advisory committee met on Sept. 28 and discussed changes related to the Saskatchewan Lotteries community grant program policy, the city’s playground renewal program for 2022, new rates and fees for parks and recreation in 2022 and new rates and fees for cemeteries next year. 

They then recommended that the four topics be submitted to council for official approval. Council approved the motions during its Oct. 12 regular meeting.

During the committee meeting, five of 10 members were present, along with four employees from city hall. As part of the agenda, the committee accepted the resignation of member Sara Cull. However, in the meeting minutes, she was listed as absent. 

This generated some concern from media in Moose Jaw about whether the committee had quorum — or enough members — to pass the recommendations. 

Reporters raised the issue with city manager Jim Puffalt during a scrum on Oct. 14. They pointed to sections in The Procedures Bylaw and The Cities Act that said the recommendations could be invalid if quorum were not achieved. Moreover, concern was raised about whether council could accept the resignation.

Puffalt promised that, once the scrum was over, he would investigate the situation and provide a response to reporters. A day later, city hall explained the situation by email.

Section 7 of the parks and recreation bylaw states that a committee member’s appointment will automatically terminate for three reasons. These include when a city council representative ceases to be a member of council, when a committee member ceases to be a resident of the city, or when the member’s seat becomes vacant through resignation or death, the email explained. 

Furthermore, based on a recommendation from the committee, council can terminate a member’s appointment if the member fails to attend three consecutive meetings without a reasonable excuse, when a member is permanently incapacitated, or for cause. 

Meanwhile, section 49(4) of The Procedure Bylaw states that all boards or committees shall be subject to requirements of The Cities Act or the bylaw’s provisions, the email continued. Therefore, quorum for council meetings is subject to the act, which is also reflected in section 7(1) of a bylaw that governs the parks and recreation advisory committee. 

“The Cities Act Section 71 states that quorum is a majority of the members of council. Council members can resign (as per) Section 70 and their position becomes vacant,” said the email. “With a vacancy, quorum is then the remaining members of council.  

“Ms. Cull resigned from the parks and recreation committee on Sept. 9, 2021. With one resignation, the majority of members of the committee is 5 or 50 per cent of 9. Therefore, the meeting was properly held.”

As for accepting committee member resignations, council can adopt these resignations by approving the advisory committee minutes, the email continued. For example, Cull’s resignation was recorded in the parks and recreation advisory committee minutes, which council adopted during the Oct. 12 regular meeting. 

“As you are aware, no action of an advisory committee can occur without final council approval,” the email added. “We apologize that the minutes were misleading as Ms. Cull should not have been listed as absent, rather should not have been listed. 

“We will correct at the Oct. 25, 2021, meeting.”